UCL Ear Institute


Carolina Leal - MSc in Advanced Audiology

Carolina Leal studied MSc in Advanced Audiology at the UCL Ear Institute and graduated in 2012.

Carolina Leal

Current job title: Audiological Scientist (Part-Time) & Senior Teaching Fellow in Paediatric Audiology (Part-Time) (from October)
Current employer: Paediatric Hearing Implant Centre – Guy’s and St Thomas' Hospital & UCL Ear Institute

Why did you choose UCL and your degree programme?

I was working at the Royal National Throat and Ear (RNTNE) Hospital at the time and it’s next door to the UCL Ear Institute (EI). The RNTNE and the EI always had very strong links, which made the choice easier. The academic reputation of UCL as one of the top universities worldwide also played a big part in my decision.

At the time I decided to study, the EI had just launched the Advanced Audiology MSc programme. This was designed for practising audiologists looking to enhance their clinical skills. This suited me very well as I could enrol on a flexible programme and choose from a variety of specialist modules to suit my professional needs. Also, it meant that I could continue to work full time, which was important as my husband and I were saving for a deposit on a house.

What did you enjoy most about your time at UCL?

The feeling of being back at uni so many years after I completed my degree was great – you appreciate it more at masters level as you have more time to explore the areas of the subject that interest you most. Plus the networking opportunities to take you forward in your career are more apparent – you have a greater realisation that the academic side is only one part of the benefit of studying with others second time around.  

What did you enjoy most about your degree programme?

The flexibility in choosing the modules that suited me.

Please give details of any study abroad experiences and/or industry/work placements you undertook as part of your studies at UCL. If these assisted your career please explain how.

One of my key interests during my MSc was in auditory processing disorders. I got to spend a week with a lead researcher in the field based in Connecticut, which was essential for me to complete my dissertation. My dissertation supervisor helped me secure the U.S placement, but I’d say that the quality of the placement is also determined by your willingness to develop your contacts around your research interests.  

As part of my Cochlear Implant (CI) module, I observed 2 CI surgeries (one paediatric and one adult case) as well as some outpatient CI appointments and those practical experiences later helped me secure a role as an Audiological Scientist in the Hearing Implant Centre at St Thomas’ hospital.

Did you experience any benefits from undertaking your studies in London? If so, what were they?

I love the fact that London is such a multicultural place. So coming from Brazil I always felt very welcomed and at home here. I suppose that has benefited me in giving me confidence to interact with my peers, lecturers, other professionals etc. I cannot imagine living anywhere too far from the buzz of London.

Do you have any tips or helpful advice for incoming students?

Just enjoy your time at uni and make the most of the opportunities! And maybe, don’t leave all the revision to the night before the exam – it does not work! Trust me, I have tried that before!

How did you get to where you are now in your career? Was there anything that particularly helped?

Completing my MSc was essential in moving to a higher band in my career.

I currently work as an audiological scientist within the Hearing Implant Centre at St Thomas’ hospital in London. Although the requirement to work in a CI department varies across the CI centres in the UK, you certainly need a Masters degree or a clinical scientist qualification. I also have just been appointed as a Senior Teaching Fellow in Paediatric Audiology at the UCL EI and a post-graduation qualification was minimal requirement for the job. My extensive clinical experience also counted, but being proactive and staying up-to-date with the latest developments in the field has been equally important.

The qualification is the foundation of your learning but it’s just the start!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The fact that there are no typical working days! Every day is different, so you’re never bored! One day I might spend the whole morning debating with colleagues on the best clinical recommendation for our caseload, another day I will go into theatre to do intra-op measurements and check that the implants are working during a surgery. On outpatient days, I see about 3-4 patients a day. The appointments can be an assessment pre-implantation, or an implant activation, or a mapping session, for example.

One of the best feelings is seeing a child progress with their implants over months and years to become confident and talkative individuals.

As I have just started in a part-time academic post, I don’t have much to report on this side of my career just yet. But I am already enjoying the best of both worlds - clinical and academic. It will be a steep learning curve, but one that I am looking forward to.

What does it take to do your job well (strengths, skills etc.)?       

Enthusiasm, knowing what’s going on in the wider world of Audiology and being a good communicator.

Did you benefit from any partnerships or relationships that your department had with other organisations? Examples could be placements, internships, joint research projects, field studies or use of specialist facilities etc. If you did please, please describe the nature of the relationship and how it benefited you.

The close partnership between the UCL EI and the RNTNE Hospital was really helpful during my research project.

Since leaving UCL, have you used any of the services for alumni such as networking events, reunions or mentoring tools? If so, how have these been useful to you?

I attended a kind of lecture / network event once, but it was a long time ago and I don’t remember much from it.

Are you involved in any volunteering activities? If so, please detail below and share why you undertake voluntary work (whether UCL associated or not).

I recently became a teaching assistant at a weekend school which teaches Brazilian Portuguese as an inherited language to children from 2 to 11 years old. It’s mainly for kids born in the UK who have at least one Brazilian parent and are interested in developing their Portuguese and learning about Brazilian culture.

I start this to give me an opportunity to socialise with the Brazilian community close to where I live. It’s also great to get more engaged with my own culture as I feel a bit distant from home after living in the UK for so many years.

Communication is a passion for me. I read this Czech proverb once: "You live a new life for every new language you speak. If you know only one language, you live only once." Since then I had a go at learning British Sign Language (BSL) and French. I didn’t get very far with these, so I decided to help children to learn Portuguese instead!